It seems pretty straight forward; healthcare is a service, right? Healthcare ticks all the service boxes, it’s not that tangible, you can’t touch it or hold it. You can’t really try before you buy and there is very little freely available objective information to evaluate the quality of the product. Beyond of course the valued opinion of your best friend’s second cousin who often makes an impassioned recommendation about their favourite service provider. Healthcare is highly perishable; just ask anybody who has missed an appointment at their specialist and subsequently begged and pleaded for another appointment sometime in the next millennium – once the appointment is missed its gone. Healthcare is also necessarily highly variable, we are all individuals and need to be provided healthcare that is suitable and tailored to our individual needs. Open and shut I hear you say, but perhaps not. There are no doctors or nurses working at Telstra, and yet they are investing heavily in the healthcare market, with a blueprint for the future. But what are they selling; goods or services and why does it matter? If all good marketing theory tells us that the inherent differences between the nature of goods and services i.e. intangibility, variability, perishability effects the way in which we evaluate their worth, apply value and interact with the product, then it is obvious that we need to know if we are marketing a good or a service. Some of the Telstra products appear to be adjuncts or supports to traditional healthcare, such as IT solutions to integrate health records, education tools and directories. Other products go a little further and enter into the space of healthcare services, specifically automated monitoring. Where we might go to the doctor to have our blood pressure or glucose monitoring done, we can now rely on a mobile app. An app will check these parameters, let us know when there is a problem and provide dietary guidance. Could this see the eventual obsolescence of General Practitioner services? So how should a mobile app such as this or the remote monitoring as promoted by Telstra be marketed? It seems to be neither a good nor a service, but a little of each. The concept of an intangible good is worth considering at this point. Intangible goods are things like on-line content, mobile apps and e-books, with the same attribute of intangibility as services; however they are distinctly different from services in their level of variability and perishability. In the instance of a mobile app you can see a demonstration, access a trial period or purchase the app for a relatively small price in order to trial the product. In addition you have access to consumer ratings and unlike traditional healthcare services, if you don’t access it today, it will still be there tomorrow. All of which suggests that the marketing of such intangible goods, is more akin to traditional goods.
Perhaps this heralds a new era in how we receive our healthcare, only time will tell! But perhaps not so far into the future, instead of calling our doctor we will instead go to the app store and download a cure to our ails.